I knew little about my great grandfather Reuben Benjamin Lock when I started the A to Z. Two Royal Doulton Whisky containers are the only visible reminder of his existence. Why is he buried in an unmarked grave? Why are there no photos of him in the old family albums?
On the right is “Admiral of the Fleet” and the other is Tony Weller’s “Beware of the Viddeys” – Tony marries an uncommon pleasant widder but lives to regret his imprudence and warns other to beware of the Vidders (widows).
My grandmother said her father brought home the Royal Doulton Whisky containers full of Dewar’s blended whiskies each Christmas. They were presents from clients and have stayed in the family for over a hundred years.
Reuben was the fifth son of Emma Moore and Henry Lock, born in Warracknabeal, Victoria in 1872. Although I have been told almost nothing about him I have been able to trace his whereabouts from Census records, Sands City Directory and Trove. My grandmother Myrtle (known as Kay) followed him around Victoria along with her mother, brothers and sisters until she left home to marry Walter Hall.
Reuben’s unusual name makes it easier to find him in historical records. In 1895 he married Christina Cameron Robbie, daughter of the artist William Robbie. She was 20 so had obviously left her home in Mount Gambier after her father went off to Western Australia to find gold.
Reuben is listed as a Fishmonger in Stawell at the time of his marriage. It must have quite humiliating for the young bride Christina when the following incident occurred, recorded in the Victoria Police Gazette, July 31, 1885.
Reuben Lock._ A warrant of commitment has been issued by the Stawell Bench against Reuben Lock for 14 day’s imprisonment, in default of payment of 20s., fine, for furious driving.
Description:- Fish hawker, about 26 years of age, 6 feet 2 inches high, medium build, fair complexion, dark hair, dark moustache and sideboards, erect gait, very loud voice; generally wears dark clothes and a black soft felt hat; drives a spring cart. Is supposed to have gone to Nhill.
I had to smile when I read that he was speeding in a “spring cart”. I wonder did he have to serve that sentence of 14 days imprisonment? Also, although I don’t have a photograph the police description is almost as good.
The next year my grandmother was born in Elmhurst, Victoria, some 53 kilometres from Stawell. Much to my surprise I found the next child Daphne, was born in Glanville, South Australia. This was where William Robbie lived in 1884 and Christina had attended school for seven months. Maybe she had happy memories of the time she lived there and suggested to Reuben they try their luck in a new place or more likely she had family in the area. Sadly Daphne died when she was a year old. The place of death is listed as Glanville but Reuben’s residence is St Arnaud which is back in Victoria 75 kilometres from Stawell.
In 1900 when Ruby was born they were living in or near Benalla, Victoria which is some 335 kilometres east of Stawell. Charles, the next child, was born in Ararat, Victoria, 31 kilometres south of Stawell in 1902. In 1903 both Reuben and Christina are listed as fishmongers in Camperdown, 159 kilometres south of Stawell.
The last child, Claude, was born in Warracknabeal in 1905. This is 262 kilometres north of Camperdown so Reuben must have moved again in that period between 1903 and 1905. He was listed in the Sands City Directory in Camperdown again in 1906 and ’07.
In 1909 he was a fishmonger in Warracknabeal but in 1914 he is living in Stawell and is now listed as a “dealer”. The Stawell News and Pleasant Creek Chronicle of 25 July 1916 reports that Reuben is fined 10/- after a verbal fight with a neighbour who was also fined 10/-. Mention is made of his wife, two sons (who were accused of using their shanghais against the neighbour) and a daughter, whose presence resulted in toning down of the language. This is the year my grandmother Kay married Walter Sydney Hall and escaped the tumultuous life of Reuben Benjamin for the peace and quiet of 80 Railway Parade, Williamstown.
The Argus of 20 Feb 1917 reports on “Fires in the Country”
Stawell, Monday.-In Stawell West, at 11 o’clock this morning, an eight roomed dwelling with detached kitchen and breakfast room, owned and occupied by Mr Reuben Benjamin Lock, was gutted by fire. Mrs Lock smelt something burning in the kitchen and gave the alarm, but owing to no water being available, the flames could not be checked. The brigade, in putting the hydrant on a 12in. main, broke the lug off the main, and could only get a stream of water for some time. Had they got a supply of water at first, it would have prevented the flames getting into the main building. The house was insured for £200 in the Norwich Union, and the furniture for £150 in the New Zealand Company.
After reading this I recall my grandmother talking about the “Great Fire” that burned the family Bible with all its family history.
1920 sees Reuben in Ballarat as an “agent” and 1921 to ‘23 in Dimboola, also as an “agent”. 1924 sees a change in occupation. He is now a “fruiterer” in Terang. Christina dies in 1926 while still living in Terang. Reuben goes back to his old stamping ground of Camperdown and is again a fishmonger.
1931 sees him as a “fisherman” in Wodonga, which is on the Victorian/NSW border opposite Albury, divided from it by the Murray River. It was while living here that a court case “A Domestic Tangle – Hopes of Peace” was reported in the Wodonga and Towong Sentinel on 25 April 1930. I was astonished to find that Reuben had married again after his wife’s death. Christina died on 21st January, 1926. According to the courtcase Reuben married Rosemary Emma Lock on the 11 Sep 1926. Rosemary testified that they went to reside at Terang. A month later she left on account of his treatment and went back to work. She said they had disagreements on private matters. About six weeks before the court case she met him in Albury and asked to let bygones be bygones. She wanted to move back in with him but he said this might be awkward as he had a woman living at his house. A few days later the woman agreed to leave and Rosemary returned. Reuben refused to take down the photo of the woman who had just left. At this stage the judge decided to continue the case behind closed doors. Apparently the two left the court together.
In 1937 at the age of 65 he is a labourer and living in George Street, Melbourne. One would hope that he was able to retire soon after as he is listed as a pensioner in Kooyong in 1943. He died later that year at the age of 72. His Death Certificate states he was a fishmonger, dying from Arteriosclerosis and Coronary Thrombosis. He is buried in the Church of England Section of the Box Hill Cemetery in an unmarked grave.
Looking over Reuben’s life it is possible to imagine why the family ignored him in death. My grandmother wrote in my autograph book when I was a child:
I cannot help who my relations are
But I can pick my friends.